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No. 25 Northwestern takes ranking for a spin vs. Chicago State

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Northwestern coach Chris Collins shared over the weekend that his daughter is “the one who’s been yelling and screaming that we need to be in the Top 25.”

The Wildcats? Not so much.

“Those are all nice rewards for a team that’s playing hard, working hard. But we’re not worried about that, you know,” Collins said. “Our whole focus right now is winning basketball games.”

Northwestern now can carry that concern with a ranking prefix attached. The No. 25 Wildcats enter Wednesday night’s visit from Chicago State following a hot start that at last earned voters’ recognition.

Although Collins and Co. might not say it, the Wildcats (7-1) likely thought their home overtime victory against then-No. 1 Purdue on Dec. 1 would have vaulted them into the Top 25 the following week.

It didn’t, but Northwestern’s response during Sunday’s 91-59 rout of visiting Detroit Mercy helped illustrate the team’s worthiness, in Collins’ view. The Wildcats had an eight-day layoff after defeating the top-ranked team in the nation and were juggling academic responsibilities at the end of the term, too.

They blitzed the winless Titans just the same, shooting 55.7 percent from the field while committing only seven turnovers. So much for a trap game.

“You’ve got to be mature, right?” Collins said. “Every game counts the same. At the end of the year, you’re going to be judged by what you do on your full body of work, and that’s why a mature team, you’ve got to get ready to play these games.”

Collins lauded Detroit Mercy’s grit in limiting the Wildcats’ leading scorer, Boo Buie, to 2-for-9 shooting from the field and praised the Titans again for losing at Mississippi by only a point in November.

Struggling Chicago State (3-9) hasn’t faced a Power Five school this season and is coming off Sunday’s 66-50 home loss to the St. Thomas (Minnesota).

The Cougars shot just 38.8 percent from the floor, including 27.8 percent from 3-point range. Wesley Cardet and Noble Crawford paced Chicago State with 12 points each, but the team couldn’t maintain its momentum down the stretch after drawing within 49-45 with seven minutes to go.

Should the Cougars aim to trap Buie, who scored 31 points in the upset of Purdue, the Wildcats will be ready.

Buie had eight assists against Detroit Mercy as Northwestern’s ball movement kept the Titans off-balance. The Wildcats assisted on 29 of their 34 field goals.

Reserve Nick Martinelli shot 10-for-12 from the floor en route to a career-best 22 points. Ryan Langborg hit five of Northwestern’s 10 treys and scored 19 points, while Ty Berry (16) and Brooks Barnhizer (13) also finished in double figures.

“We were all hitting shots,” Langborg said, “and passing it really well.”

The Wildcats also were plus-four on the glass and had nine steals, four from Langborg.

Northwestern is 15-0 against Chicago State all-time, including an 85-54 victory in its season opener a year ago. The Wildcats’ 31-point margin of victory was their smallest in the series since a four-point win in December 2016.

–Field Level Media

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